American wants to fly Bombardier planes with hydrogen

American wants to fly Bombardier planes with hydrogen
American wants to fly Bombardier planes with hydrogen

American Airlines plans to convert dozens of Quebec-built CRJ regional jets to hydrogen-powered aircraft.

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The Texas airline has just placed a conditional order for 100 hydrogen electric engines designed by the American start-up ZeroAvia.

These engines are intended to enable the emission-free flight of CRJ700 regional jets developed by Bombardier and produced from 2001 to 2020. American’s PSA subsidiary currently operates 61 CRJ700 (65-seater) and 80 CRJ900 (76-seater) aircraft.

“Advancing commercial aviation’s transition to a low-carbon future requires investments in promising technologies, including new forms of propulsion,” American Airlines CEO Robert Isom said in a statement this week.

The carrier also made a new injection of funds into ZeroAvia after making an initial investment in the company in 2022.

Photo Fisher Studios

Valery Miftakhov, founder of ZeroAvia

In 2021, one of American’s main rivals, United Airlines, announced a stake in ZeroAvia as well as a potential order for 100 ZA2000 hydrogen-powered electric engines.

Approval next year?

Founded in 2017, ZeroAvia hopes to obtain approval for its ZA600 gaseous hydrogen engine (intended for 20-seat aircraft) by next year and is targeting 2027 for that of the ZA2000 liquid hydrogen engine (for 40 to 80-seat aircraft).

For the conversion of regional jets, ZeroAvia is working with Mitsubishi, which acquired Bombardier’s CRJ division in 2020.

In addition to the CRJs, the ZA2000 engines could also power DHC-8 aircraft, built in Toronto from 1983 to 2021, notably by Bombardier.

Photo ZeroAvia

Last year, ZeroAvia and Alaska Airlines unveiled a hydrogen-powered DHC-8 aircraft that they billed as “the world’s largest zero-emission aircraft.”

It remains to be seen, however, whether ZeroAvia will succeed in its gamble. Several companies have failed in the hydrogen-powered propulsion sector.

The latest in the running is the American start-up Universal Hydrogen, which was also working on converting regional aircraft to hydrogen. American Airlines, Airbus, GE and Toyota had invested in the project.

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